Homeless and Back Again

I woke up hung over on June 12, 2012. I didn’t like the way I felt, but after a couple glasses of orange juice (which were mostly vodka), I felt better. I had no plans, nowhere to go, no one to see or talk to and was resigned to lay on the couch in front of the TV and drink. If the alcohol wasn’t enough to numb my pain and self-hatred, staring at the TV would distract me.
I was disgusted with myself. I had woken up in my car after drinking, driving and blacking out. It was a miracle I made it to my own driveway. I had failed again. Couldn’t I stay sober just one day? And my dogs. Oh, wow, my dogs. Did I feed them last night? Did they have to go potty and hold it all night since I was gone? My dogs were the only thing I loved back then. They were my only friends. They loved me when no one else could or would. Again, I’m failing them. I hadn’t walked them for a week. I hated myself for this, too. I know I deserved nothing, not even their love. I deserved to die alone. I spent a solid hour thinking about how I could accomplish this.
At around 1 pm, I heard a knock at my door. Shoot. It’s the cops, I thought. Oh no, what had I done? I didn’t budge from the sofa, but the knocking persisted. I looked through the window to see my parents and my little sister. I couldn’t hide. They knew I was home because my dogs were barking and the TV was on. I hesitated but finally opened the door. Ugh, I hated seeing the disappointment, sadness and fear on their faces. I had nothing to say.
My sister, Kristy, on the other hand, had lots to say: “You’re going to the Crisis Shelter. We don’t trust you to be alone. You’ll continue drinking and driving. You’re going to kill yourself and maybe someone else.”
I made excuses: Who will take care of my dogs?
I’d been making excuses for myself for years now. My family wasn’t buying them. They insisted I go. I was out of money and would soon be on the street or living with one of them. I decided a bit of time at the shelter would help me re-group.
I felt nauseated and dizzy as I stumbled around packing a bag in silence. I could hear whispers in the other room. I noticed on the drive over, the buildings were beginning to look rundown, and when we arrived at the Crisis Shelter, I knew I’d hit the bottom of the barrel. How far I have fallen, I thought. My life is over.
My first impression of the Crisis Shelter was a broken down, ugly place filled with what I considered “street people.” Sad women with no teeth and lots of kids. Losers. Throwaway women. My family stood by with tears in their eyes, holding hands for strength. Later I would learn their impression was the same as mine, and they almost changed their minds. But leave me they did.
I really am alone, I thought. I’m one of the throwaway people. Even my family wants to get rid of me. And who can blame them?
I walked to my room, and as I walked, I noticed the sign out front, “Hope starts here.” Yeah, right!
There were six scary women in my room. I had a towel, worn sheets, a blanket and a stained pillow. One bathroom. Dirty blue carpet. The only light was a single lamp with a dull bulb and no shade. I shut my eyes. I wanted to see nothing, feel nothing, to forget I was in this place with these people. ·
I spent three months at the Crisis Shelter. Yes, it really was true. Hope started in that place. I began to believe I might have a future and I actually wanted one. I began to believe Jesus was real and that He loved me. When I left the Shelter, I had been sober for three months. A good beginning, and I will be forever grateful to the Crisis Shelter and its staff for welcoming me with open arms.
At 9 a.m. on August 27, 2012, I pulled up to what I thought was an old mansion. Impressive, I thought, and once inside, I knew my time at Anna Ogden Hall would be quite different than my time at the Crisis Shelter.
I remember walking through the dining room and thinking, “There’s nothing wrong with these ladies. They look normal. They’re clean, nicely dressed and well kept. What could be wrong with them?” Then again, I looked “normal” too, and I knew how messed up I was. At least now I wasn’t escaping the pain through drugs or alcohol.
The sign on my door said, “Welcome home.” Is it possible they really feel that way? I thought. As I put my clothes away in a dresser with drawers instead of a plastic tote, I realized I was afraid. Perhaps even more afraid than I had been upon entering the Crisis Shelter. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of not being accepted. Afraid of failure. Afraid of my feelings.
My room was awesome – clean, nice furniture. No more writing on my bed; I had an actual desk. The welcome basket included a brand new towel, and I was particularly grateful to see that my pillow was stain-free. Everything about the place said that someone cared about me, was willing to invest in me.
At dinner, the other residents introduced themselves and welcomed me. Some offered hugs; others shared their stories. All of them made me feel a part of something, something I couldn’t quite put words to.
That night, as I pondered my first day in this new home, I realized that the people at Anna Ogden Hall thought I was a worthwhile human being. Maybe I still have something to offer this world after all, I thought.
I went to sleep that night in a comfortable bed, and I thanked God for the journey that had brought me to this place. I felt safe. I felt hope growing inside the broken parts of me. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Happy tears. Tears of relief. Tears of gratitude. Tears of thanksgiving.
I had found my home for the next two years.
Update: Lesa graduated from UGM Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall, got a job, moved into an apartment of her own and is back on her feet. Homeless no more.